CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – PLAY OFFS – SEMI-FINALS : Liverpool vs Villarreal
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A potentially historic season is on the cards for Liverpool, as they look to replicate their EFL and FA Cup semi-final triumphs when they take on Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) last four. This will be Liverpool’s 12th appearance at this stage of Europe’s premier club competition, with the Merseysiders progressing in nine of their 11 previous efforts, and winning the 2018/19 edition when last beating Spanish opposition at this stage.
The ‘Reds’ red-hot form continued with a 2-0 win over Everton on Sunday keeping them right behind rivals Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title. That win also made it an impressive 21 victories across their 26 games (D4, L1) in 2022, with Liverpool’s domination throughout that run highlighted by 15 of those wins coming by a margin of 2+ goals. Despite the cauldron that awaits Villarreal at one of Europe’s most feared stadiums, Liverpool have a very mixed record versus Spanish sides at home (W7, D8, L6), which may give the visitors hope of avenging their 3-0 loss here in 2016.
Villarreal will face English opposition for the fourth time in their last five major European competition semi-finals, only getting the better of Arsenal on the way to winning last season’s UEL title in that time. Villarreal’s confidence should be sky-high though after back-to-back domestic wins, and pulling off one of the shocks of the season in knocking out Bayern Munich during the last round.
Plenty has been made of manager Unai Emery’s influence in European competition, and with his impressive record of advancing from 31 of his last 37 knockout ties, he clearly knows how to approach a European night. He’ll need to spark his troops once again here to steer the ‘Yellow Submarine’ in the right direction, as they’ve now failed to win in England on their last eight visits (D3, L5).
Players to watch: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has scored 13 of his last 17 UCL goals after half-time, while Villarreal’s Arnaut Danjuma prefers early action, scoring the match opener in four of his last five goalscoring outings.
Hot stat: There have been 17 goals scored past the 75th minute in Liverpool’s last 16 home fixtures.
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